Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starship was launched into the sky from Southern Texas last March with tangerine flames and white smoke leaving behind it. However, after six minutes of the test flight, the spacecraft returned to Earth.
Though Texas has been interested and was persistently trying to convince Elon Musk to use Boca Chica beach for testing and launches; however after the first testing, the results are already disastrous. The explosion left behind components that littered the ecosystem of the place.
Lower Rio Grande Valley national wildlife refuge – comprising tidal flats, beaches, grasslands, and coastal dunes that host a huge range of wildlife – is also filled with rocket debris.
When Musk formally announced for the first time that Boca Chica has been selected for the launch and all the trials before and after, most people celebrated.
Josh Mejia, executive director of the Brownsville Community Investment Corporation said, “We were seen as a border town, with all the negative national rhetoric that goes along with that. But SpaceX choosing to build here gave us tremendous validation. Other businesses finally started looking at us and seeing potential.”
But David Newstead, director of the nonprofit Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries, said that he felt sick right when he saw the fireball explode on the launchpad, reported The Guardian.
“I knew from the other explosions that the rocket would be scattered all over the refuge,” Newstead said. Cleanup took three months, he added.
The race of Private Spacecrafts and its launch has been noted as a concern for the environment but Texas’ Environmentalists are of the view that SpaceX’s testing site is having a more immediate impact and needs attention.
Local environmentalists have put forward their concerns throughout the tenure of the initiation of the process and even after the launch. SpaceX is dominating the road and the refuge land around it, closing roads and beaches for longer than their 300 permitted hours.
In 2019, US Fish and Wildlife wrote a letter to the FAA requesting SpaceX’s roads to be closed and testing stopped till “noncompliance issues are resolved”. In June again, the agency wrote to the FAA about SpaceX reporting “unauthorized encroachments and trespass on the refuge”, which also included parking on refuge land and installing a drainage ditch, reported CBS news.
In December 2020, even the Indonesian government had proposed the Papuan island of Bia as a potential site for the SpaceX Mars-bound expedition. However, soon local news reported in March 2021 that the Indonesian government has denied proposing the island as an experimental site for SpaceX.
Also, Biak residents showed strong resistance to the project as they feared that it might cause harm to the natural environment and obstruct and create troubles in their lives. It could also affect their cultures and livelihoods, and displace communities from their homes and villages, wrote Sophie Chao in The Conversation earlier in May.
Regarding the launch from Texas now, Bryan Bird, of the national environmental nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife said “It’s really been shocking to witness the way the federal government has allowed this to happen. Elon Musk is building a space complex in one of the most environmentally diverse, and inappropriate, places in the world.